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From the early 90s onward, alternative terms for free software have come into common use, with much debate in the free software community.

The term "free software" was coined by Richard Stallman in 1983 when he launched the free software movement.

Records of published version of its definition can be found dating back to February 1986.

The definition can be summarised as software which the user can use for any purpose, study the source code of, adapt to their needs, and redistribute - modified or unmodified.

To avoid the ambiguity of the English word "free" (free as in beer versus free as in speech), and to avoid talking about the impact on freedom of non-free software, people have suggested alternative names.

"Open-source software", "Software Libre", "FLOSS" (Free/Libre/Open-Source Software), and "FOSS" (Free and Open Source Software) are the most common alternative terms.

The most popular alternative has been "open-source software".

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Désiré Athow
Contributor

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.